By Russell Baillie
What's a nice boy like Dean O'Gorman doing in a film role like this?
Already a 10-year New Zealand screen veteran at the age of 22, O'Gorman makes quite a departure from his usual cheery-chap roles to play tortured wastrel Mark in Garth Maxwell's relationship drama When Love Comes.
Not only does he spend quite a bit of his screen time acting (convincingly, it must be said) very out of it, sex-wise his character sure puts it about a bit.
If they ever see the film, those American fans with Web pages in O'Gorman's honour from his role as sidekick Iolaus in Young Hercules might well be a little shocked by his transformation.
That swerve is one of the reasons he took the edgy role, says the affable O'Gorman, sitting in his agent's Auckland office.
"The film for me was a change in how my career had been going along. It was good for me to try not to get myself typecast."
No, playing a gay character didn't make him pause for thought, though he says it was strange.
"It was weird. There is obviously a part of you that goes, 'It's not what I've experienced, it's not me, it's not part of my life, it is different.' As much as you want to pretend you're a liberal, it still is quite strange."
O'Gorman laughs loudly when it's suggested that at least Simon Prast (playing Mark's main love interest) looks like a good kisser.
"Luckily, I've never been worried about my sexuality and ultimately you have to ask the question, 'Who really cares?' Maybe if you walk into a pub in Dargaville and they've just seen the movie ..." he laughs. "But what is someone going to say?"
Well, they'll probably still say, "There's that guy from Shortland Street," actually.
But his time as Nurse Harry Martin is only part of O'Gorman's list of credits, which began at the age of 12 after being "discovered" by a casting agent during a school speech contest.
After parts in kid-ult series like Raiders of the South Seas, his first feature job was the Kiwi-Canadian teen romance Bonjour Timothy at 17, on to a regular spot on our favourite nightly soap a year later, and then heading to the Xena-Hercules franchise and various telefeatures .
Had the work not kept coming, he might have taken up the place he kept postponing on the AIT graphic design course after finishing at Rangitoto College. But eventually his deferments ran out as this acting gig started to resemble a career.
When Love Comes, which has been orbiting both the international and gay-and-lesbian film festival circuits this year before its local commercial release next week, is some of the toughest work he's done.
"I found playing Mark, although it was challenging, quite stressful. I'm not claiming that I've gone all method about it, but it is something that does require a bit of concentration to play all of those different kinds of emotions."
So, is this the start of no more Mr Nice Guy?
"It's just nice to make a change. While I'd like to make movies that are uplifting, there's always that part of you that goes, 'I want to play the evil guy because it's not me.' So anything that is not me is a challenge, and if I rise to the challenge then I've kind of proved myself."
By Russell Baillie